Where Did All The Tibetans Go?
by Grain

I'm a Mongolian Chinese American. My 26th generation grandfather had been a prime minister to Kubilai Khan's grandson in the Yuan Dynasty. Ever since two years ago, I have been trying to call America's attention to the real minorities in China, who live in central China instead of in the bordering autonomous regions.

When I first began telling people about the forgotten minorities in China, some people reacted with skepticism. They thought that only a handful of minorities lived in central China. It was difficult for me to convince them that their concept is wrong.

Many of them base their impression of minority population in China based on academic figures from books they read, which cite anywhere from 6% to 8.9%, "with the majority of the population in autonomous regions". I have to say this runs totally contradictory to most of the Chinese people's real experience in China. If you ask any Chinese who grew up around central China, or Taiwan they will tell you, "Minority people are everywhere in China!"

In my experience, it wasn't at all uncommon to run into minorities in Taiwan. In my first grade class of 32, our teacher was Manchurian, I was Mongol, and another girl was Miao. That's one incident of 10% minority. One can say it's a fluke; 3 out of 32 isn't that hard to happen by accident. Yet I know in my heart it is probably closer to the norm. Very often, newspaper articles about movie stars, writers, and politicians would include a brief word about their minority blood. This isn't the focus of those articles, but comments in the passing. Do luminaries tend to be minority? Certainly not true. Among the ordinary people, we would hear someone say, "I'm tall because my parents were Manchurian." And we won't even blink, because we know minorities are everywhere.

Most of us are quite desensitized toward minorities around us. I recently walked into an overseas Chinese bookstore, chatted with a clerk for 20 minutes, and finally mentioned I am a Mongol, to which she replied, "I'm a Manchurian." This was in the United States!  Neither of us blinked at all.

As I mull over the census figures, I know they don't sound right. If indeed there are only 6% to 8% minority people, and most of them are in bordering regions, then the central area should have only 1% to 2%. Somehow 1% to 2% sounds too low.

Why is there such a discrepancy between real experience and "census" figures?

Finally, I began to work out a set of figures based on my own family, which helped me understand the situation. I began with a mathematical calculation. According to my family tree, including my children, there have been 27 generations since the Yuan Dynasty days. Assuming 2 children who reach adulthood per generation, then from 1290 A.D. there are now 67 million descendants. Astounding? Here is the math:

1. 1
2. 2
3. 4
4. 8
5. 16
6. 32
7. 64
8. 128
9. 256
10. 512
11. 1024
12. 2048
13. 4096
14. 8192
15. 16384
16. 32768
17. 65536
18. 131072
19. 262144
20. 524288
21. 1048576
22. 2097152
23. 4194304
24. 8388608
25. 16777216
26. 33554432
27. 67108864

Yes, 67 million from one family.

Yet, most of these descendants would NOT be counted in a Chinese census for minorities, due to two factors:
Factor 1)
China is a patriarchal society. All children follow their fathers' line of family. Of the 67 million possible descendents, half of them may very well be female. Of the 27 tiers of this family tree, any node with a female child ends, as far as the census is concerned, thereby eliminating her branch of future generations of BOTH male and female descendants. That cuts drastically from any survey China may hold on the minorities populations.

However, many people in China will tell you, "My grandmother is a Manchurian." It is quite normal for ordinary people to run into minorities. This is why the ethnic survey in China yields a deceivingly less minority population. But the people in China run into minorities everywhere.

Here in the U.S., most people judge their own ethnicity based on their skin color. Anyone with either an African American father or mother tends to be viewed as African American. Their children and grandchildren are often viewed as minority for generations. In China, minority census is hampered by the patriarch system.

Factor 2)
In China, the ethnic groups' autonomous regions also qualify as geological locations. Identification records do not ask for "ethnicity" but the geological location of family origin. In over 700 years of integration, many people have migrated. The records of the first few generation of migrants will reflect that they came from "Mongolia". After a few more generations, the records tend to reflect the newer geological location.

In my 1st grade class of 32 or so, there were three minority people. The Manchurian was registered as "from Beijing". The Mongol was "from Canton" (actually my grandfather didn't even live in Canton, but was in Hainan, an island off Canton.) The Miao was registered as from another province. None of us were registered as minorities. Yet we all know our own heritage. Wu Ur Kai-Xi, one of the student leaders in Tienanmen Square, is a minority from Xinjiang province. But he is now registered as a Taichung resident in Taiwan.

Despite that we don't show up on the census, many of us minorities in central China belong to family associations with people sharing the same last name. In China, our ancestors define who we are. Heritage is very important to us.

We should keep in mind: In the autonomous regions such as Tibet, nearly every one of the whole population is counted toward "minority population". This is why textbooks all over the West show a negligent number of minorities in central China, and contend that the vast minorities are "concentrated" in Tibet, Mongolia, Xinjiang.

The above figure of 67 million is assuming no war, nor epidemic, which central China did suffer some.

The Tibetan movement claims Tibet was a "peaceful country that had no disease, no hunger, until the Chinese invaded her." Common sense should make people ask, "Why is the Tibetan population only 6 million when a SINGLE family of Tibetans alive during the Yuan Dynasty days may have 67 million descendants now under such peaceful conditions?"

Where did all the Tibetans go?

The fact is: Many Tibetans-like migrants in the U.S. who had moved west to a better land-have migrated east into central China in a continuous integration process over the last 700 years. The move did not happen overnight. This is why Tibet is an inseparable part of China. Due to the number of mixed marriages in central China, people with Tibetan blood are everywhere. Tibetans are integral to the Chinese heritage.

Tibetans are part of the Chinese people.

This is why a Chinese student from the mainland tried to tell the Americans: "There are Tibetans all over China. One of them is a top general in the Chinese army. Another is a household name singer." It takes a base of many average people to produce a top general, and a household name singer. There are also people like the famous dissident Wei, who has never set foot on Tibet, but met a Tibetan girlfriend in central China. Evidence that Tibetans are all over China is prevalent.

The lies spread by the Tibetan movement can not be sustained. There are millions of Tibetan Chinese people in central China who will one day speak openly, and be heard. Right now some Tibetans have tried to speak, but they have been labeled as "Chinese propaganda".

One of my foremost concerns is for the Tibetan Chinese children who live in central China. They are like me. When I was growing up, I used to enjoy looking at the map of China while sitting in a geography class in China. I smiled when I saw how big Mongolia-my part of the country-was. I knew Mongolia was the autonomous home region for my ethnicity, and looked forward to going there to meet all my fellow Mongolians.
Outer Mongolia became independent under the Russians' engineering, and nobody in the world realized what it did to me. I was saddened, sitting in my classroom, feeling my part of the country just became small. Had Inner Mongolia left China, too, I can't imagine how lost I would have felt.

We must realize, the Tibetans and Mongolians living in their autonomous regions had never lived as the minority, but rather as the MAJORITY dominant forces in those regions.

But the Tibetans and Mongolians in central China, despite their massive numbers, are scattered, and sometimes isolated. The minority people in central China need all the support they can get.

I find it sad that while the Hans saluted Genghis Khan, and encouraged my heritage, the Tibet Movement denies minorities even exist in central China. Instead, the movement continually pushes the notion that China is a mono-ethnic Han nation. It finally came to me what is going on. There is something very wrong here. The minorities in central China are the real minorities, in terms of being a small percentage of the local population. But they are forgotten.

The Dalai Lama and his group are willing to erase the existence of vast minority people in China, including the majority of the Tibetans, who live in central China. These Tibetans in central China are now non-existent in all of the Tibetan movement's literature.

We must not forget this reality: The Dalai Lama and his group had lived as the MAJORITY in terms of the percentage of the local population in the bordering regions.

They now take advantage of the term "minority", and kick the real minorities into oblivion by declaring to the world that we are assimilated "Han" now. They care little what will happen to the real minorities in central China.

As an American now, married to a spouse with Native American blood, with two children, and looking forward to grand children, I love this country. I can't help but wonder what an American will think if one of our own minority independence group here declares the rest of us Americans, be we Chinese American, African American, Native American, are all "assimilated European Americans now".

Just as the minorities in America will be offended by this notion, so are the real minorities in China. I feel very bad that the Tibetan movement is attempting to erase our identities. Is this how we want their Tibetan children in central China to feel?

I hope all the people who support the "Free Tibet movement" will think twice on what you are really doing to the real minorities in China.

Ask yourselves, "Where did all the Tibetans go?"

I hope you will support the real minorities across China, be we Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchurian, or other, in keeping our heritage, rather than support a group that is out to deny our existence.

copyright reserved by the author